STEVEN Bowditch, former Mayor of Carlisle says we should think again about local government reform in Cumbria (The Cumberland News letters, November 19). I would like to take him up on his invitation.

Cumbria has always struggled to have an identity of its own. Local government reorganisation appears to be driven by outside perceptions of Cumbria rather than its geographical reality.

Cumberland is a defined geographical area of the Solway Plain and the Eden Valley, surrounded by mountains on one side and the Solway estuary on the other.

Carlisle, its biggest city, is not in the centre but at the head of the estuary at the gates of Scotland.

In the south is the town of Barrow with a coastal strip along Morecambe Bay. These two separate and unequal identities have more interaction with those outside Cumbria than they do with each other – and that is the nub of the issue.

The people who made this decision were not prepared to break up Cumbria, a political institution that exists mostly on a map, into regions based on its two estuaries, the Solway Firth and Morecambe Bay, and in doing so they have come up with a compromise which reinforces its failure.

The first is the replacement of Cumbria County Council with a Mayor, to attract grants. This institution will be a democratic failure. The Mayor of Cumbria will always be appointed by people in the north of the county because that is where most people live. Or, to put it another way, Barrow will have no say.

The Eden Valley, against its will, is part of the south of the county to even up the size of these two districts. The consequence of that is that, as Mr Bowditch points out, that after 1,000 years Carlisle will not be the administrative centre of Cumberland.

The people of West Cumbria are not disappointed but that does not make it a good decision. Local government reorganisation is about creating economy of scale to cope with the fact central government is no longer prepared to finance it. This will strengthen the power of the bureaucracy in local government and weaken its democratic accountability.

This reorganisation was undertaken by people who had to play by the rules of people outside Cumbria and have succeeded in coming up with an agreement which ignores the interests of its two biggest towns Carlisle and Barrow, and the Eden Valley has been put in a place where it does not belong and does not want to be.

Roy Ivinson
Whin Close, Silloth